Once again, you've made the Your Story competition a success. Thanks to everyone who participated in the competition (either by entering, reading or voting).
There were more than 400 views of the stories, and readers helped us pick "He Plays Expert" by Cresta McGowan of Clarksville, Tenn., as the winner. For winning, McGowan's story will appear in the March/April 2010 issue of Writer's Digest.
The car door slams; I cringe...he's home. Each night his mood is worse and with the economy continuing it's downward descent, the advertising business is an uphill climb. Few words are spoken upon entry; a quick brush past me and the girls, a stop at the fridge for his evening Corona, and it's off to the basement "man cave" for a nightly round of Guitar Hero. We all wonder what tonight will bring: The Beatles, Greatest hits, or for a particularly bad day, Metallica? As "off to never never land" wafts up the stairs, Metallica it is.
We are used to this. For weeks he's been on edge and we're waiting for him to crack. When he stumbles into bed around midnight with a smile on his face, I am intrigued. There seems to be a twinkle in his eye and then the question comes, "Babe do we still have my guitar in the attic?"
"Why?" I ask nervously.
"I think I'll call Kenny tomorrow and see what he's been up to."
And then it hits me like a train wreck - Kenny....guitar....college band....DOES - HE - REALLY - THINK - HE'S - GETTING - THAT - BACK - TOGETHER? Kenny, a worthless excuse for a man, was his college garage band buddy. They had dreams of taking it on the road, but as usual, Kenny bailed and it went up in flames like most of Kenny's activities. Wherever he goes, he leaves a trail of destruction behind him. I hear my husband snoring peacefully now and I know we are headed towards the fire.
Before I feel like I've slept at all, the alarm is going off. Much to my chagrin, my husband is up and out of bed early leaving a note on my pillow: My head is clear now. Love you. Thinking he's let it go, only a momentary passing in the night, I am relieved. But when he walks back through the door at 11:45a announcing, "I quit," I literally visualize my house smoldering in a path of destruction.
"Called Kenny this morning and he's coming for dinner tonight to practice at 7p so set an extra plate. He sounded weird on the phone, so please be nice."
Be nice - BE NICE! I have to talk myself through it, "bite your tongue, this will pass, with Kenny it always does."
At 7p the door bell rings and I panic. As I slowly open the door dreading what I will find on the other side I am astonished to see a woman and a 16-year-old Kenny standing in front of me. She stares at me with a look of pure exhaustion and while I'm sure my face shouts utter confusion, I invite them in.
My husband comes running up the stairs and stops hard mid-step. A solemn feeling now takes over my home that completely replaces all frustration, anger, and trepidation I'd felt moments ago. Through a tearful process we learn that Kenny Sr. left years ago. He never overcame his obsession with becoming a "rock star" or the lifestyle that goes with it. They haven't seen him in five years and when my husband called early this morning, it was Kenny Jr. that made plans for tonight at 7p. He thought that if he went into his father's past, he might learn his father's future.
We stand in silence with the girls close by staring at their father through concerned eyes. At 14 and 16, they are well aware of what is going on and hearing this story makes them wonder about their own dad; would he leave, too?
And then, there it was, the smile I'd seen last night on my husband's face. He looked down at Kenny Jr. and asked one question, "Guitar Hero? I play expert." The boys descended in to the "man-cave" where The Beatles rang up the stairs.
After dinner and a night of seeing what really matters, my husband fell into bed still smiling. It was not the sinister smile of the night before, but a satisfied smile I was glad to see. He looked at me and said, "Kenny just doesn't know what he's missing," and with that he was sound asleep.
I, too, smile completely happy as well and totally exhausted from the 24-hour roller coaster we've been on. All I can think is, lesson learned.